Who can best heal Chile? That is the nub of the race that has
already begun for the presidential election in 2000.
Front-runner at the moment is longtime Socialist leader Ricardo
Lagos, who is expected to win nomination in Sunday's primary of the
Concertacon - the governing center-left coalition that includes the
Socialist Party, Party for Democracy, and the Christian Democrat
Mr. Lagos launched his bid just months before the arrest of
Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in London last October reopened
old wounds of his 17-year military dictatorship.
The frenzy over Mr. Pinochet's judicial fate has put front and
center the issue of who is most capable of completing the
reconciliation process in Chile, resolving the questions of the
nation's troubled past, and moving the nation forward.
In Chile's polarized landscape between the supporters of the ex-
dictator and his detractors, the Lagos candidacy is a highly charged
Supporters of Pinochet largely claim that the arrest of the ex-
dictator was due to a so-called "socialist conspiracy." The almost
McCarthyism-style fears of socialism among some in Chile were a
factor that helped lead to a military coup against President
Allende on Sept. 11, 1973, and the ensuing long list of brutal human
rights abuses of the Pinochet regime. Such fears now have a new
focus in Lagos.
Lagos last year resigned his position as minister of public works
in the current Eduardo Frei government in order to pursue the
presidency full time. A career academic turned politician, he holds
a PhD in economics from North Carolina's Duke University.
In the Concertacon primary, Lagos is up against Andrs Zaldvar, the
president of the Senate and a founder of the well-organized
Democrat Party. Mr. Zaldvar, who trails far behind Lagos in the
polls, says that a centrist politician like himself is better suited
to lead Chile in this "critical moment."
Lagos responds that all that is necessary in order to lead the
country through reconciliation and modernization in the next period
is to keep the coalition of center-left political parties that are
embodied in the Concertacon together.
"We as a Concertacon, together with the Christian Democrats, were
essential to the defeat of Pinochet 11 years ago," says Lagos on the
campaign trail in Valparaiso Wednesday. "We defeated Pinochet in
order that human rights and the rule of law are accepted in Chile.
The Concertacon is all that is necessary to provide the
of Chile. …